LinkedIn is the top social networking site for professionals who want to be found and build a network, but you want to be careful how you use the site when in the midst of a confidential job search.
Know your company’s policy about LinkedIn. If there isn’t a policy in place, consider approaching your boss about the strategic value of company employees having a presence on the social networking site — for business reasons — because, as LinkedIn itself points out, “Just because you use LinkedIn doesn’t mean you’re looking for a job. Many people use LinkedIn to keep in contact with others and help them succeed in their current position.”
Your company may even encourage development of your LinkedIn profile. Some reasons your company may support employees having an online presence on LinkedIn include:
• The company’s profile may appear more robust to have current employees affiliated with it on LinkedIn.
• Employees can connect with potential customers.
• Employees can demonstrate thought leadership and expert positioning for the company through involvement in LinkedIn Groups related to the company’s industry, products and services.
• Help the company connect with potential employees who may reach out to current employees through LinkedIn.
However, even if your company supports your involvement on LinkedIn for business purposes, you still want to limit your perception as an active jobseeker (vs. being seen as an active business professional). And make sure you update your LinkedIn profile gradually, if possible. Adding lots of information and connections all at once may look suspicious.
Here are ten specific actions you should take on LinkedIn to support your stealth job search, while still being visible for business connections and to facilitate unsolicited job opportunities:
1. Turn off your activity broadcasts. This is the first step to take, as it will ensure that your entire network isn’t notified every time you make a change to your profile. If you don’t turn off this setting, all of your connections will receive notifications of every change you make to your LinkedIn profile. So turn off your activity broadcasts before making any changes!
2. Select who can see your activity feed. Your choices are: Everyone, Your Network (these include “friends of friends”), Your Connections, and Only You. Choose “Only You.”
3. Select who can see your list of connections. The choices are: Your Connections or Only You. Who you know is actually valuable information for future employers who are considering hiring you or searching for you on LinkedIn, so leave this as “Your Connections.”
4. Select the type of messages you’re willing to receive. Do not click the “Career Opportunities,” “Job Inquiries,” or “New Ventures” boxes — these will show up on your Profile. However, you can check “Expertise Requests,” “Business Deals,” “Personal Reference Requests,” and “Requests to Reconnect” boxes.
And be sure to fill in the “Advice to People Who Are Contacting You” section on that page. In particular, include your cell number and email. If someone is not a 1st connection, they will not see your contact information in the top section of the profile so adding contact information here is very helpful.
5. Manage your Recommendations. Cultivate these over time — suddenly adding several recommendations at once may raise suspicion. So request recommendations over a period of time (for example, one per month), so they appear to be more organically cultivated.
6. Don’t reveal confidential information on your LinkedIn profile. You want to quantify accomplishments, but not disclose company secrets or proprietary information. Focus on how your contributions have helped the company be successful.
7. Don’t participate in LinkedIn Groups for Jobseekers while you’re employed. Instead, participate in LinkedIn Groups where you might be found by recruiters or future employers. Contribute your expertise (and carefully considered comments) in job function-specific or industry Groups.
8. Build your network of contacts slowly. Do not send out multiple connection requests within a short period of time. If your number of connections jumps from 20 to 120 in just days, that’s suspicious to anyone who might be checking out your profile. (However, you definitely want to get your connection number above 100, and ideally should be around 500. But do it over a period of time, not all at once.)
9. Do not use LinkedIn’s profile blocking feature to minimize your LinkedIn visibility to your current boss or colleagues. This will only raise red flags if they know you have a LinkedIn profile but can’t access it. (They can simply ask a friend or colleague to log into their own LinkedIn account and pull up your LinkedIn profile.) If you had previously blocked supervisors or colleagues for this reason, LinkedIn now allows you to “unblock” these individuals. Instructions and your list of blocked individuals can be found at: http://www.linkedin.com/settings/member-block-list
10. Don’t upgrade to the paid jobseeker membership level. The last thing you need in your confidential job search is a job-hunting icon on your LinkedIn profile!